Research other historic ballads. What stories are they telling? What historical events are they describing? What is the structure of each verse? Can you write your own verses for these historic songs?
After viewing episodes 1 and 2 of the FRONTIER HOUSE, write a completely new version of "Sweet Betsy from Pike" based on the actual journeys of the Brooks, Glenn, and Clune families.
Find sheet music of "Sweet Betsy from Pike." Can you or any of your class members play it on a piano, keyboard, or other musical instrument?
Research and report on the development of the covered wagon, steamboat, and railroad. Would Sweet Betsy and Ike have been able to take a train from Pike County, Illinois to Placerville, California in 1847? Why or why not?
Determine how many miles it is from Pike County, Illinois to Placerville, California? How many hours would it take to go that distance in a covered wagon traveling two miles per hour? In a steamboat traveling 10 miles per hour? In a train traveling 30 miles per hour?
Sweet Betsy and Ike traveled to California shortly before gold was discovered there. What valuable gems and minerals can be found in the United States? Where can they be found? When were they discovered? Plot your findings on a map.
Interview friends or family members about traditional or folk songs with which they are familiar. Create a book of traditional songs.
Invite a folk singer or traditional instrumentalist to perform for your school or class.
About the Author
Christopher W. Czajka is a Historical Consultant for FRONTIER HOUSE. He also serves as the Associate Director of the National Teacher Training Institute (NTTI), an educational initiative of Thirteen/WNET New York that teaches educators across the country strategies for incorporating PBS programming, instructional media, and emerging technologies into classroom curriculum. To learn more about NTTI, and to explore more media-rich lessons, visit NTTI Online (http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/ntti).